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The notion of a handbook is that this book becomes a point of reference and that it is ‘handy’. The idea of something being ‘handy’ conjures up something that is useful and useable. This is certainly a facet of this book. For this reason the book is more informational than narrative as has been the case in past books in the series on risk. We also think of things being ‘hand’ made or of a ‘handmaid’, one who serves and this book certainly seeks to serve those with an interest in risk. Not to be confused with the dystopian series Handmaids Tale, the Social Psychology of Risk seeks to challenge totalitarian and authoritarian views of tackling risk as is common in orthodox models of risk, safety and security management. The dystopian view of risk is profoundly captured in the discourse of zero ideology so common in the risk and safety worldview.
We also talk about having matters ‘in hand’ or using ‘what is at hand’. Having things at hand is an idiom for being prepared and ready. In this sense this book is a book about readiness. This readiness is a readiness to relate rather than a readiness to use.
Of course, in the face of vulnerability, fallibility and mortality some things for us have gotten ‘out of hand’. We now have to live with the absurd level of bureaucracy that has been created to manage risk that does very little to help us manage risk. We see the ‘handy-work’ of the archetype of Technique create its own meaningless necessities that have now become so burdensome and normalised in the risk industry that we don’t know how to tackle risk without them and attribute efficaciousness where there is none.
Finally, the human hand is a metaphor for wisdom. Bronowski stated that ‘the hand is the cutting edge for the mind’ meaning, the hand cuts and assembles what the mind makes. The human mind always means much more than the brain, in SPoR the idea and use of the word ‘mind’ means the whole person. As a metaphor for the Social Psychology of Risk the hand is a perfect symbol for wisdom because we use our hands unconsciously. Pallasmaa writes about ‘The Thinking Hand’ and the mystery of the hand as it ‘speaks’ the mind and becomes the means for learning.
The Social Psychology of Risk approaches the realities of fallibility, randomness, entropy and evolution from a foundation of social reality and dialectic. It is through an honesty with social reality that we can best tackle risk. It is hoped that this book will be used by many as an introduction to this discipline – The Social Psychology of Risk. In this sense the book should be ‘handy’.